Here is a blog post that I did for an amazing book named Peace, Power, Righteousness by Taiaiake Alred. It is an indigenous manifesto that argues that indigenous peoples need to once again embrace our indigenous ways of governing ourselves. I hope that some of the opinions I express in this blog post resonate with you!
While I completely understand a lot of the cynicism, hopelessness and isolation are not the proper avenues for expressing this cynicism. Instead of simply giving up and deciding to separate ourselves from anything dealing with the government, we should seek to see how we can make the government work for us. Taiaiake Alfred suggests that “recovery” must include government, culture and land. We might see these as points of a triangle. As indigenous peoples, we cannot truly recover if we ignore one of the three points because if one point is not respected, the triangle will never truly stand. I would further add language as a fourth point, creating a square upon which we can stand.
Alfred rightfully cautions us about the limitations and boundaries of traditional cultural revival, when what can be revived and practiced in colonized, indigenous societies is still dictated by the colonizer. For instance, dances and chants may be easily funded by the settler-state government producing a false image that this ti magåhet (non-authentic) government supports the indigenous people. (To clarify, I am not saying that ti magåhet governments are comprised only of settlers; I am rather referring to the form of government as settling on our indigenous forms.) We, indigenous peoples, need to see through this smokescreen of false support and realize that the ti magåhet government will only support indigenous revival as long as it does not threaten the power/domination status quo. Giving money to host a concert of traditional dances does not directly affect the status quo, and may actually help with the tourist appeal of that particular place and settler-government.
Thus, we cannot sit there and concentrate on nurturing only one point of the triangle (or square) of indigenous recovery, because we can see how it creates a false belief that recovery will occur without anything additional being done. In order to experience a complete revamping of our current situations, we need to take the cynicism of government that dwells within us and realize that the form of government we despise so much is NOT OURS! This government model is a foreign one that is inconsistent with indigenous values, and thus we should yearn for something new. This is a call to action. Our cynicism should be an opportunity to imagine better systems and to realize that we had a form of government drastically different from what we have today. Governance is not something that should be ignored because we will just concentrate on “the culture”! The Chamoru people have existed since we walked out of the rock that our mother creator, Fu’una, became to give life to us, so we have ways of knowing that drastically differ from most imported, colonial governance values. As Taiaiake Alfred writes: “Just as we must respect and honour our songs, ceremonies, and dances, so, too, we must honour the institutions that in the past governed social and political relations among our people, because they are equally part of the sacred core of our nations.”
Governance has not always been a bad thing, and we need to be able to realize that. It is about time we as indigenous peoples give governance a new face that does not make our communities cringe with a bad taste in their mouths.